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‘Putty in your hand:’ RSS kicks off summer reading camp

By Denita Dowell Reavis

ROCKWELL — With wide eyes and some restless expectations, nearly 84 students entered Rockwell Elementary School for the first day of summer reading camp.

The camp is intended to help first- through third-grade students who are behind grade level according to state reading tests.

For rising third-grader Brinley, reading is about perseverance.

“When I miss a word and I don’t know it, I just want to give up,” she said. “But I never give up. I just go back and try to sound it out.”

She recognizes the camp cuts into her summer playtime but knows the advantages of a day a bit shorter than regular school days.

“I get to go outside and play with my dogs and get on the trampoline,” she said.

Another student, Gillian, looked forward to coming to reading camp. She said she knows her letters and sounds but needs to get faster as she reads.

Gillian links reading with her future as a baker.

“They can read what the customer has asked for,” she said.

She makes the connections that the state legislature had in mind when lawmakers passed the Read to Achieve in the summer of 2012. The law says third-graders must be proficient at the end of summer or risk being held back.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction reports 59 percent of the third-grade students who were eligible attended reading camp last year statewide. Of those, 30 percent left the summer camp working at grade level.

This is the second year first- and second-graders were invited to reading camp.

Shive Elementary teacher Deb Webb recognizes the need to help students as young as possible.

“One step builds upon another,” Webb said. “And if they are not at a proficient level, it’s going to be hard for them to understand, to gain the knowledge, and to grow in a way that will be beneficial to them in their whole lifetime.”

Webb and other teachers say the smaller summer classes allow them to give students more personal attention.

Breanne Dietz is in her seventh year of teaching.

“The best thing about summer camp is it is small groups,” she said. “We’re going to have lots of one-on-one time with the kid. So even though I haven’t had these students in my class throughout the year, I’m going to be able to form those relationships. Once you form those relationships, they become putty in your hand.”

That putty in the teachers’ hands should translate to more Rowan-Salisbury students starting on grade level when the 2017-18 school year rolls around.

Summer reading camps are also operating at Millbridge, Hanford Dole, Isenberg, Koontz, Hurley and China Grove elementary schools through Aug. 3. Districtwide, 661 students signed up to attend.

Denita Dowell Reavis is principal at Faith Elementary School.

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